Saturday, June 13, 2009

Poker gems, #286

Puggy Pearson:

Luck ain't never paid the bills.

I'm back

Good night of sleep. Woke up feeling normal again (or as close to "normal" as a bizarro such as me gets). The self-pitying is behind me. Onward.

Have some grumpy posts in mind, which will be forthcoming shortly. But many errands to run today.

Congrats... the queen of crubs for cashing last night in WSOP Event #25, the mixed $2500 Omaha/Stud High-Low, after winning most of the buy-in for it in a series of bloggaments on Full Tilt. Darn good thing that somebody represented for the poker bloggers in the Series.

In the meantime, Phil Ivey, who can outplay all of us with both hands tied behind his back, managed to go even deeper in that tournament (still in it heading into Day 3) while simultaneously being one of only 59 players that survived Day 1 of Event #27, the $5000 Pot-Limit Omaha/8. Now he will have to double-table both tourneys for a second consecutive day. Freakin' unreal. But in terms of writing, C.K. leaves him in the dust, so it's kind of a wash, IMO.

Guess the casino, #172

To reveal the hidden answer, use your mouse to highlight the space immediately after the word "Answer" below.

Answer: Bellagio

All you need is "Love"

(I was about to title this post "Yellow matter custard dripping from a dead dog's eye." But who needs that?)

Wednesday night, Cardgrrl treated me to a sort of late birthday present: We went to see "Love" at the Mirage. It had been at the top of my list of want-to-see Vegas shows since the day it opened.

It was all I had hoped for and more. Stunning, captivating, intriguing, overwhelming, creative, evocative. There is often so much going on at once that you can't even notice it all, let alone absorb, interpret, and appreciate it. But there are other times when the chaos is replaced with something simple and beautiful. I think I will never again be able to listen to "Something in the Way She Moves" without recalling the elegance of the white-clad trapeze artists gracefully flying overhead.

You can find reviews aplenty on the web, if you need them, so there's no point in me trying to describe the show. Besides, you basically already know if you want to see it or not. If you like Cirque de Soleil and/or you like the Beatles, you will want to see this thing. It would be a crime not to. If you're too young (or, I suppose, too old) ever to have caught the Fab Four bug, and the other Cirque shows leave you saying "meh," well, then, I suppose it's best that you walk on by. But you will be missing something truly special and spectacular.

"Love" has zoomed into the top five best shows I've seen since being in Vegas. The others are Penn & Teller, Elton John's "Red Piano," Ka, Blue Man Group, and Spamalot.

OK, that's six, but who's counting?

It is manifestly not the case (pace Lennon and McCartney) that all you need is love. But if you get some "Love," I think you'll be happy you did.

PokerStars is pissing me off AGAIN

Just over a month ago, the newly updated PokerStars client was giving me fits, and Stars support was utterly useless. See here for the story.

Today I logged on for the first time in almost two weeks, and there was another update waiting. And just a few minutes into my game, CRASH! After a couple more times of crashing and logging back on, I rebooted. It crashed again. It crashed about 40 times in one SNG. Exactly the same as a month ago.

I just sent the following to Stars support. I predict that I will get a sympathetic but completely worthless message in reply, and that nothing substantive will get done, based on my previous experience with them. I will just have to sit here and seethe until there is another fix, which could take, well, basically forever.

Current state of mind: Seriously unhappy.

I did the software update today, and the result is that when I play, the software crashes about every three minutes. It happened roughly 40 times during one sit-and-go. It is maddening--absolutely intolerable.

If you check your records of communications with me, you'll find that the exact same thing happened after a software update in early May. So I am not going to believe you if you tell me that the problem is within my system, and/or that I am the only one affected. I made the mistake of believing that back then, and spent hours trying to fix the problem, only to find out later that it had, in fact, been a problem with your software update the entire time.

All of which means that I wish you would fix it pronto, but I have no faith that you will. I cannot play on your site until it is fixed, but my previous interaction with you makes me pretty confident that you don't care about that. I had to wait a week for the fix last time. Is it too much to hope that it's faster this time? Probably.

I'm willing to provide any tech information your people need to try to track this down--the log files, etc. But I'm seriously pissed off that I have to go through this AGAIN. Is reliable, non-crashing software really too much to expect from your company?

Friday, June 12, 2009

Poker gems, #285

Tommy Angelo, in Elements of Poker, p. 240.

Even at our best, it's hard to focus on the right thing at the right time all the time. Throw in some fatigue, stuckness, television, and mind noise, and it's impossible. But wouldn't it be amazing if we could? What would that feel like? What would it look like? What would need to change? Is it unrealistic to think that we could be maximally focused all the time? Of course it is. Is it unrealistic to think that we could do better than we do now? Of course it isn't.

[With that thought, I conclude my long series of "Poker Gem" entries from this most excellent book. I hope that these excerpts have convinced you that it is a volume you should own, read, and absorb.]

Did anybody get the license plate of the truck that hit me?

WSOP 2009, Event #24.

I arrived at 12:09 due to traffic (plus due to not really caring much if I missed a few minutes). No time wasted finding my table and seat, as I already had that mapped out. I recognize just one face at my table: John "The Razor" Phan, 2008 Player of the Year for both Bluff and Card Player magazine and double bracelet winner at last year's WSOP--in other words, on the hot streak of a lifetime.* My stack is 4425 chips, having lost one set of 25/50 blinds while absent.

My third hand, I have A-K offsuit in 2nd position. I raise to 150, get one caller from the small blind. Flop is 8-9-10 with two crubs. He checks, I check. I'm intending to play conservatively, and I'm willing to let one go rather than get into a sticky spot early. It's just too likely that he has some significant piece of that coordinated flop to go sticking my nose out. Turn is a queen. He bets, I fold. No muss, no fuss.

Next hand I play is from the big blind. I have pocket deuces. I call a raise to 150, just set-mining. Flop is 10-8-10. I check, somebody bets, I'm outta there.

When the button comes around, I see As-Qs. John Phan and a woman have both limped in. Of significance, Phan has a few hundred more chips than I do, because of having won an earlier pot. I push it to 200. They both call. Pot is 675.

Flop is J-7-4 rainbow. Phan bets 350. Woman folds. I decide to call. I know of Phan's aggressiveness, and it seems to me that he could easily think my pre-flop raise was pure position, or a small/medium pair, or exactly the kind of hand I had--two big cards without a jack. All of those would have missed the board. Besides, he has twice seen me give up without a fight when I've missed. So even with the woman and her unknown status in, it's not a bad spot for him to launch a probe bet and see what happens, no matter what he has. I think that with two pair or better he gambles that one or the other of us in the hand with him will bet so that he could check-raise. Therefore, I conclude that he has either missed or has no better than one pair. He could easily have a jack; top pair is certainly a hand he'd be likely to lead out with. Pot is 1375.

Turn is deuce of the fourth suit. No flush draws, almost nothing in straight draws. He bets 450. My first thought was to let it go. Again, no need to be splashing about with a significant fraction of my stack 15 minutes into a 3-day affair. And had this been any of the other 6 players at the table (we still had two empty seats), I probably would have. But Phan is aggressive enough, I think, to fire twice without much, and good enough to fold either air or a single pair to evidence of strength. He has not gotten to where he is by being a careless calling station. His sometimes frenetic play is when he has the initiative, not calling. So I think a bit, and raise to 1500.

My impression is that he finds this disconcerting--unexpected. It's hard, though, to tell whether it's more puzzlement or worry. He thinks for quite a while, staring me down, but eventually calls. I have a very strong impression that he is not Hollywooding a big hand. Pot is now 2875.

River is another brick--an 8 maybe? Can't remember for sure, because it wasn't a card that affected my analysis. Phan checks. I hesitate maybe one second before picking up my last two chips--yellow 1000s--and pushing them in. Phan shakes his head and makes a face, and as he tosses his matching yellows he has the distinct look of one who feels resigned to his fate.

I, of course, feel that more acutely than he could know. I say, "You called, so you must have the winner," and show my A-Q. He looks surprised but relieved, and turns over A-J. Stick a fork in me, I'm done.

As you might imagine, I've spent much of the last several hours going over it in my mind again and again and again. I'm trying to figure out just where on the stupid scale it rates, between "mildly" and "outrageously." I may not be able to arrive at even a semi-objective conclusion because of how crappy I feel. Every criticism of my actions I think of seems like 20/20 hindsight and outcome-oriented thinking, while every justification that comes to mind seems like wishful thinking and excuse-making.

Here's where my head is at the moment: I'm willing to defend everything up to the turn raise. Given his range and what I believe he's thinking about me, I don't think I was crazy. It was the first time he had seen me willing to put in money after the flop, on a board that had no draws, so he would have to think I have something. The turn raise is the most aggressive action he has seen from me, so he has to give it some credit. He has to worry that I have an overpair or a set, either of which I could easily have played as I did. I think that he won't want to risk virtually his entire stack so early in a tournament on one pair, in a situation where he must simply guess whether he is ahead or behind. If he folds on the turn, he's down to just a bit under his starting stack, but not anything like crippled.

So I think the flop float and turn raise are OK. (Of course, playing completely ABC and folding on the missed flop would have been OK, too. "He who fights and runs away," and all that.)

The harder question for me is the all-in river bluff. I did not feel pot-committed. I could have given up after he called the turn raise, and still had 2000 (40 big blinds) to work with. Had he fired out again on the river, I would have folded, no question. But his hesitant call on the turn and his check on the river suggested to me that this was not a spot in which he wanted to go all the way.

Was he pot-committed? Well, he was getting better than 2:1 for the call (2000 to win 4875). But that's hardly the end of the analysis. If he takes the chance and loses, he's down to less than 500 chips, and resigned to shoving preflop one time with any reasonable two cards, and hoping to mount a miracle comeback. I can't imagine him wanting to be in that position when he could find better spots. If he folds, he still has maybe 2500, which is still 50 big blinds. I think that is probably a more useful way of looking at his situation than just the pot odds, and by that metric, no, I don't think he was objectively committed to going all the way after making the turn call. However, I don't know his mind, and he may feel that being cut down to less than half the starting stack is tantamount to being out, and decide that he'd rather gamble on getting a substantial head start on the field than fight back from a half-stack early. Maybe he even had thought in advance that he'd enter the 5:00 event if he busted out early here, so that made him more willing to take a chance than he'd otherwise be. I just don't know.

My self-recrimination is eased a bit by having been right about his actual card strength and by having read correctly his bet sizing and body language. They really did represent apprehension--he really was worried. In fact, as I was standing up, I heard him tell the guy next to him, "I thought for sure he had a big pair." So I apparently succeeded in making him think what I wanted him to think. That comment is what makes me really wonder about what other factors prompted him to make the turn and river calls, though. Did he think it through? Did he really think that a player unknown to him would make that audacious a bluff at him, especially so early in the game?

I am disappointed. That, in fact, is an understatement. I can't remember the last time I felt this disappointed. I'm not angry or frustrated. Just enormously disappointed. And it's not because I had any serious high hopes. I knew going in that the most likely outcome objectively was leaving with nothing, and I was psychologically prepared for that. Part of the disappointment is that I didn't at least get to take from it the experience, the fun, and the stories that would have come from a more typical duration, even if I didn't win anything.

But most of the disappointment comes from not having played the way I had intended to play, and therefore feeling that I blew it in the most obvious and avoidable way. I had even thought explicitly in advance about how I didn't want to be ousted. I had decided that the worst way would be to make a hero call that turned out to be a donkey call, and the second worst would be to try running an outrageous all-in bluff that blew up in my face.

[It is now Friday, 6/12, just after noon. That is as far as I got in writing yesterday. I had wanted to finish the post, but just couldn't bring myself to keep going. My apologies for the delay. This is literally the hardest post I have ever had to compose, and I just plain ran out of mental and emotional gas to finish the job yesterday.]

This is the first time I can recall wishing that I had taken a bad beat. Then I could feel annoyed but self-satisfied, have a good story to tell, grumble a bit, and be over it. I'd even prefer having been outplayed--e.g., somebody slow-playing a monster and inducing me to fall into his well-disguised trap. Then I could feel beaten but not despondent. As it is, I can't shake the feeling that I just plain suck at poker.

That said, I am slightly buoyed by an exercise that my friend Cardgrrl urged me to do a couple of weeks ago. I had mentioned that I don't consider myself a tournament player, didn't enter many of them, and don't have spectacular results. She encourged me to check my records and see what my cumulative results really were. I knew I was significantly ahead in tournaments overall, but I hadn't analyzed the numbers carefully. When I did, I was surprised to find that since being in Vegas I have played in 61 live tournaments (a lot more than I remembered), and cashed in 13 of them--a pretty respectable 21% of the time. I have also won outright three times, or 5% of the time. With an average field size of probably around 70 or so, that's nothing to be ashamed of.

But still, when I was presented with a chance at my biggest score ever, I completely botched it. The most generous way of looking at what happened is approximately this: "Hey, you made a move that had a decent chance of putting you way ahead in chips early on, and it didn't work out." The most damning way of looking at it, and the one that most occupies my thoughts, is approximately this: "You proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that you are the phony wannabe good-for-nothing moron donkey idiot that deep down you've always known yourself to be." I'm too bewildered and depressed to figure out at which end of the spectrum the truth lies, or perhaps somewhere in between.

Stu Ungar once famously said, "No one has ever beaten me playing cards. I have only beaten myself." Of course that wasn't literally true for him, nor is it for me. But it sure is true today, and it is the worst feeling I can imagine. People often say that there are certain life events the overwhelming emotion of which you cannot truly be ready for, no matter how much you might think you are--things like the birth of a child or the death of a parent. I thought I was sufficiently steeled for losing in this tournament. But not like this. Not for losing in the way that I told myself a hundred or a thousand times I absolutely was not going to do, one which (unlike falling into a trap) was 100% avoidable.

I feel like I let everybody down--my wonderful friends; my loyal readers; PokerListings for giving me the seat (which I now suspect they will regret; I wouldn't blame them for discreetly but deliberately not inviting me to join the blogger freeroll if they run another one next year); PokerNews for giving me the time off of work; Cardgrrl, who was arriving to support me for the day just as I was walking away overflowing with shame and remorse; and the other players I beat to win the seat, who undoubtedly would have performed better than I did.

I feel profoundly embarrassed, even while remaining uncertain to what degree I have reason to be. In three years here, I have never come so close to an uncontrollable reaction that would leave onlookers saying, "Hey, there's no crying in poker!"

I can't help wondering if the fact of it being a freeroll for me had something to do with my actions. I had literally nothing invested in it. I had anticipated in myself the possibility of treating it too lightly--of subconsiouly focusing on having spent nothing to get there rather than on the possibility of winning half a million dollars--and had spent a decent amount of time harshly warning myself not to let it happen. But maybe it did anyway. You'd think that the fact that I lost nothing in the process would make the outcome roll off as if nothing had happened. Actually, I thought that might be how it would feel. I was way wrong. In talking about that with Cardgrrl yesterday, she offered some insight: Maybe it being a freeroll makes it feel worse, because the prospect of getting something for nothing is so alluring and enticing, that when it doesn't happen it feels even more disappointing than when you have paid your money and taken your chances like everybody else. I don't know, but it's an interesting idea.

For those few readers who, judging by submitted comments, seem to revel whenever I step my foot in the dog poo, go ahead and speak your mind. Tell me what a pathetic loser I am. Tell me that I don't deserve even the modest success I have had in the game so to date. Tell me that I'm a poseur, a hack, a nobody. Nothing you can say will make me feel it any more viscerally and genuinely and thoroughly than I already do.

Last week rapper Nelly entered a WSOP event and lasted only a little longer than I did. His parting words to the table summed up what many must feel as they bust out of poker tournaments: "Stupid game."

But he doesn't speak for me. It's not a stupid game. It's a great game, endlessly full of excitement, challenge, and intrigue. I only wish I could have risen to the occasion and shown some part of what I think I'm capable of when at my best, instead of humiliating myself like a contestant on "American Idol" who commits the unforgiveable sin of forgetting the lyrics when he is finally given the opportunity of a lifetime and has the camera and spotlights on him.

Now I feel like I should apologize for this ridiculously self-indulgent, navel-gazing rant, in addition to apologizing for performing so horrendously badly. I don't know. I'm just utterly beyond the ability to know what I should think and feel at this point. So for it all, I'll just say, "I'm sorry."

*A cautionary note. It's possible it wasn't actually John Phan. Nobody mentioned any names, there was no press there photographing or interviewing him. He was at the other end of the table, wearing big, dark sunglasses, and people don't always look like their photographs. But if it wasn't him, it was a darn good impersonator. I'm in the vicinity of 90% confident of the identity, so I'm going with it here.

Guess the casino, #171

To reveal the hidden answer, use your mouse to highlight the space immediately after the word "Answer" below.

Answer: Stratosphere (Thought it was the Luxor, didn't you?!)

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Poker gems, #284

Tommy Angelo, in Elements of Poker, p. 237.

Fluctuation causes tilt.

Tilt causes fluctuation.

Big day

Event #24 today, noon. I will try not to be in my seat too early, as Dr. Pauly always observes that the early arrivals to the donkaments have no chance of winning.

Checking Wicked Chops this morning, I see from the Twitter feed (see above) suggestions that, contrary to the earlier decision, texting from the table will not be allowed. It appears that this was reported by Mark Seif, confirmed by Jeffrey Pollack. I have looked on a bunch of blogs, on Pokerati, on PokerNews, on Tao of Poker, etc., and have seen nothing else about this. Very strange double-reverse, if it's true--first put in the rules that no texting will be allowed, then make an official but non-public decision that it would be allowed, then halfway through the series start citing and enforcing the rule. At this point, I'm not sure what to expect. If there are few Tweets from me today, it may be because they're making some announcement to that effect.

Full of nervous energy. Slept about 6 1/2 hours, but woke up 90 minutes earlier than wanted and couldn't get back to sleep.

Likely 2500 people playing in this one. That means that 11 people would be expected to get dealt pocket aces on the first hand. They hold up about 80% of the time, which means that about 2 people will likely lose with them on the first hand. Wouldn't be too surprising if somebody busted out with them on the first hand. Hope it won't be me.

Filled with conflicting goals about sitting back and playing uber-tight at first, versus taking advantage of all the dead money people are bringing to the table and getting my fair share of it, before I'm left with only the toughest and/or luckiest opponents. Just have to play it by ear.

Am going to try to remember Charlie Shoten's main "mantra" for poker: "I am calm, confident, and clear, and I wait for my best choice to appear after considering all of my choices and the consequences of each. When my best choice appears, I act."

I'm taking along a little notebook for recording observations, interesting/consequential hands, etc. Hope I stay in long enough to generate a fun post when it's all done.

And if I happen to end up with a bit of wrist jewelry and a couple hundred thou in spending money to boot, well, that'll be OK, too.

Guess the casino, #170

To reveal the hidden answer, use your mouse to highlight the space immediately after the word "Answer" below.

Answer: Plaza

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Poker gems, #283

Tommy Angelo, in Elements of Poker, p. 237.

Reset, reset, reset.

Rise above it, rise above it, rise above it.

Let it go, let it go, let it go.

Guess the casino, #169

To reveal the hidden answer, use your mouse to highlight the space immediately after the word "Answer" below.

Hint: These are all decorations in one restaurant inside of a casino.

Answer: Mandalay Bay

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Poker gems, #282

Tommy Angelo, in Elements of Poker, p. 237.

Tilted poker is like crooked teeth.

It's not your fault, and it can be fixed.

Guess the casino, #168

To reveal the hidden answer, use your mouse to highlight the space immediately after the word "Answer" below.

Answer: Gold Coast

Monday, June 08, 2009

Poker gems, #281

Tommy Angelo, in Elements of Poker, p. 236.

When I sit down to play poker, if I am hopeful that I will win, it is inevitable that I will sometimes be disappointed. Likewise, when I start with a good hand and I hope to win the pot, I invite disappointment. When I am disappointed, I do not play my best. At my best, I am hopeless.

I will be invisible

My WSOP debut is coming up Thursday, so it has naturally been occupying a progressively greater portion of my thoughts as the big day approaches. Yesterday it occurred to me to check where in the Amazon Room I'll be parking my butt. I looked at the map of the room found in the WSOP Staff Resource Guide, and discovered that I'll be completely insulated from railbirds. I'm at Table 26, which, as you can see above, is against a wall. There's a corridor for passage between the table and wall, but it's ostensibly accessible only to players, staff, and media. It's just about as far as you can get from contact with the outside world.

This is good in the sense that it should help minimize distractions and thus improve focus. It's mildly annoying, though, in that there are at least a couple of people that I would be pleased to have nearby for easy chatting, pictures, or whatever. So I'm not sure on the balance whether to be happy or unhappy about it. Not that my preference would affect the draw anyway....

I had thought that Twittering updates would be verboten by the WSOP rules on electronic devices. But it's clear from spending any time at all either in the Amazon Room or just watching media reports as the tournament progresses that everybody is using Twitter, openly, shamelessly, and without comment or penalty from tournament staff.

Why the seemingly flagrant discrepancy? Well, a few days ago, in an interesting debate that arose in the comments to a Pokerati post on the subject, a couple of usually reliable and well-placed sources (specifically, B.J. Nemeth and Tim Lavalli) reported that WSOP organizers have made a deliberate decision to allow text messaging, as long as there is no indication that it is being used for collusion or other nefarious purposes. The decision was made after the 2009 rules had been finalized and published, which may explain the mismatch between theory and practice.

I am mostly in agreement with Shamus's rant on the subject here. They shouldn't have rules that routinely go unenforced, for all the reasons he lists. If they really have made an official decision to allow text messaging, but didn't have time to get it into the books, then at the very least they should make an announcement about it at the beginning of every event, so that all players are on equal footing with respect to knowledge of the rules.

But that controversy aside, the point is that I apparently will be able to Tweet to my heart's content. How much will it take to content my heart? That remains to be seen. I sure don't want to be distracted by the attempt to post meaningful 140-character compositions, or by any sense of pressure that people are waiting and I should post something. I'll just have to wait and see what it feels like at the moment.

I'm also acquainted with the PokerNews blogger that is assigned to my event (#24), so I may be able to get a hand or two out to the world that way--maybe even act as an unofficial and unpaid field reporter for my table for them. They kindly gave me time off from overnight wrapup writing both Wednesday night and Thursday, and will arrange for a substitute for subsequent days if I manage to hang in longer. Their accommodation is much appreciated, so trying to help them out a bit with passing on interesting observations is the least I can do in return.

For the most part, though, my plan is to take detailed notes of significant hands, and wait until the whole experience is over to write up a mega-post about the whole thing. Since nobody will be able to watch me, that's the next best thing, right?

And just in case I haven't said this enough (and I fear that I haven't), another million or so thanks to PokerListings for the tournament seat. It's an incredible, generous, and unexpected gift of an opportunity that I would not have purchased for myself in the foreseeable future, and I am deeply grateful for it. I'll make them the same offer as for PokerNews: Send somebody over to talk to me during the tournament, and I'll do whatever I can to feed you information. (I'm aware that I have a mildly awkward conflict of interest, with reason for loyalty to two competing poker reporting organizations, but I'll just have to do my best to help both of them out as I can.)

Completely unrelated to the above, except that I came across it in the comments section of the same Pokerati post, is this report about a touch of class from Phil Ivey:

Yan Chen looked at his cell phone and actually took a call at the table
when it was down to 3 players in the 2-7 tournament that Phil Ivey won. He said
it was about his kid’s doctor appointment and Phil Ivey told the dealer to hold
on and let him take the call. I have sympathy for the situation (if true), but
either have a rule and enforce it or get rid of the rule.

I think small gestures of compassion and kindness like this deserve a whole lot more attention than the rude, immature rants of Hellmuth and his revolting ilk, which are perversely the things that make television. And I disagree with the person reporting the story, in that I think it is good for us both individually and collectively to be willing to make small concessions to other people's needs, when the cost is so low.

Me and the Amazon women

Yesterday I spent some time at the Rio Amazon room sweating my friend Cardgrrl as she played in the Ladies event. In contrast to her first tournament, this time she was at Table 48, right on the rail--literally close enough to touch. That's her, closest to the camera and looking right, in the top photo. The woman in Seat 9 (white blouse) is the one that eventually knocked her out.

You can see the rest of the table in the second photo. You might recognize the blond with the cute hat--it's Erica Schoenberg. As Cardgrrl notes in her video blog post (she is not doing her vlogging from the shower, as a certain other well-known female pro has decided is best), Schoenberg is (1) very pretty, and (2) as a result of #1, constantly being photographed. In fact, my pic of Cardgrrl above catches one of the media in the act. Oh, she also has one freakin' enormous diamond ring on her left hand. I wonder if she regrets doing that sleazoid strip poker game (under a phony name) for video distribution, now that she doesn't exactly need the money.

Cardgrrl was the anonymous "opponent" in a hand against Schoenberg reported by PokerNews here. I know from close observation of the process how difficult it is to get all the facts of a poker hand right, even when it's a fairly straightforward one like this, so it's not too surprising that they got a few details wrong. E.g., you can see from the pictures that the two of them are not in adjacent seats, so they could not have been in the cutoff and button seats. (Should have been "hijack" and button.) One of the cards was reported incorrectly, too, though it didn't make a difference. Cardgrrl reflected on this hand with me during the first break, and in retrospect realized that she should have moved in on the river. I agree that this would have been a better play, and almost certainly successful. Not something you'd do against a dumb calling station, but Schoenberg is clearly a good enough player not to risk the majority of her chips on a guessing river call, early in the tournament, when she has only one pair and the board has that many scary possibilities.

Just a bunch of disconnected observations here:

-- The physical layout of the corridors through the Amazon room is terrible. In the particular spot where I was standing, one line of spectators along the rail looking into the Blue section, and another line of them looking into the secondary "featured table" area immediately behind where I was, left just barely enough room for anybody to squeeze through. The entire time there was a process of constant jostling and frustration.

-- How crowded was it? Well, I spotted my pal Shamus doing his PokerNews live blogging from an elevated perch above that final table. When I couldn't get his attention by waving, I shot him a text message: "I'm standing 20 feet in front of you." A few minutes later he replied that he couldn't see me. That's how crowded and chaotic it was. (He and Cardgrrl and I are meeting up for dinner tonight, so I hope to hear some more juicy insider stories.)

-- I was not the only one to notice a change in the staffing of the massage therapy area just outside the Amazon room. Whereas before it was largely populated by young women plying their trade, yesterday they had suddenly been replaced by guys that looked like they were taking a day off from their gigs with the Chippendales. Coincidence? I think not. I've ranted before about how stupid it is for the recipient of a massage--especially a fully clothed one occurring in public--to care about the appearance and/or gender of the person performing the service. It seems that the WSOP organizers believe that their customers of both sexes will not agree with my view on that. But even if they're right, doesn't the change of personnel disregard the rather common observation about the sexual orientation of a large fraction of female poker tournament players?

-- From my vantage point, it was trivially easy for me to see the hole cards of Cardgrrl and the player to her right pretty much whenever I wanted to, even though both were using a shielding technique that would have been perfectly adequate to protect them from being seen by players to their right and left. I think this is an important lesson. You never know when a railbird will somehow signal that information to another player. When Cardgrrl finally pushed all-in, and I knew what two cards she was holding, and the player in seat 9--who could see me perfectly--was taking a long time contemplating a call, I felt that I had to be extremely careful not to give away anything. Most likely, that opponent didn't know that I knew what the cards were (an ace and a seven, by the way), but maybe she had watched me and suspected that I knew and would be looking at me to react in some way. All in all, it's a rather dangerous situation for leaking crucial information.

-- Some of the play was truly atrocious. I saw a woman in the big blind (first photo, the person who is mostly obscured, wearing a turquoise-blue blouse) just call a pre-flop raise with K-K, then play the rest of the hand in an utterly passive, weak-tight manner. She started with a safe-looking flop, but let the board get so scary that it went check-check on the river. I actually laughed out loud (involutarily) when the hands were revealed, just unable to believe that somebody trying to win a WSOP bracelet could play that horribly.

-- I noticed a few groan-inducing, inappropriate, condescending things about the way this tournament was handled that would not occur for an open event. Cardgrrl collected more such observations, and I hope she'll make them into a good rant of her own. For now, though, you might read Jennifer Newell's restrained seething over at Pokerati, here, as well as her more let-'em-have-it blasts from earlier years, here and here. I'm with you, Jen. If there is going to be a Ladies event, I think the very least we should demand is that it be treated with the same basic respect that every other event gets, and not treated in the openly demeaning "kiddie-table" fashion that it is now. (Just as a thought experiment, would the WSOP organizers even think about hosting a "blacks only" bracelet event? If they did, would they do things like offer a fried-chicken special for the dinner break and have little containers of pomade waiting for the players at their seats? If not, then what's the difference?)

-- Here's one possible example of what I'm talking about. In one hand I witnessed, a woman folded to a pre-flop all-in raise, deliberately showing the table that she was mucking pocket fives, when there were three players left to act behind her. (She's the one in the second photo above, with the glasses, in Seat 3.) This year, a new WSOP policy requires a mandatory penalty for exposing one's hand when there is still action pending, even if the exposure is inadvertant. One might argue whether that's the right way to handle it, but it at least has the advantage of taking out the sometimes difficult determination as to intentional versus accidental, if it is applied consistently. But for this fully and obviously intentional exposure, the dealer just issued a gentle, smiling caution. Maybe, just maybe, he would have done the same for anybody else in any other event, but my sneaking suspicion is that, consciously or not, his thought was something like, "They're just women. We can't expect them to actually know and abide by all those complicated rules. It would be mean to impose a penalty here, and I don't want to embarrass her further by calling the floor over."

-- This same woman, by the way, in an earlier hand, had announced "raise" when the post-flop action was checked to her. Uh, excuse me, but how can you raise when there has been no bet? This was obviously one of her first times playing poker in a casino, and she simply had bad home-game habits that she hadn't broken yet. I see this all the time in cash games, and it's neither surprising nor disturbing--everybody has to have a first time, and everybody has to learn. But is this really the place for it? I realize that she is far from alone in treating the WSOP as break-in ground for casino poker, but it strikes me as damned peculiar every time I come across evidence that that's what's happening. It's like signing up for the Olympics as a way to get introduced to some sport that you've decided you'd like to try. But hey, it worked for Chris Moneymaker, right?

-- It is always interesting and amusing to overhear snippets of conversation in the hallways outside of a major tournament. Yesterday as I was arriving right at 2:00, one of the players heading to his seat in Day 3 of one event was upset and on his cell phone because, apparently, somebody had called and said they were starting without him. He said, "Goddamn it, tell them to wait! I'm not even at my seat yet!" Yeah, right, buddy. Everybody else managed to arrive on time, but they should hold up the whole show for you, because you're so much more friggin' important than everybody else. During a break in the action, I heard one woman on her phone telling somebody, "He Sneaky Pete'd the pot away from my husband." I didn't even know that was a verb, let alone how I should punctuate it.

Guess the casino, #167

To reveal the hidden answer, use your mouse to highlight the space immediately after the word "Answer" below.

Answer: Bally's

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Poker gems, #280

Tommy Angelo, in Elements of Poker, p. 236.

At the poker table, I practice losing for real. When I lose a hand, I try to see it as practice for the next time I lose a hand. If I go an hour without winning a pot, I'm just working out, getting in shape, for the next time I have a winless hour. When I lose ten sessions in a row, I look at it as practice for the next time I lose ten sessions in a row.

Guess the casino, #166

To reveal the hidden answer, use your mouse to highlight the space immediately after the word "Answer" below.

Answer: South Point